Creating Opportunity For Generation 2020

Issue 60

The COVID-19 health pandemic and ensuing economic pandemic has disproportionately affected the Generation 2020.

This cohort of young people are faced with a shortage of opportunity as they enter the world of work. Following the government’s post COVID-19 announcement about apprenticeships and placements, employers have an opportunity now to reach out and upskill young people in line with the skills they need. Taking the initiative now will pay dividends to your brand in the long run.

Recently the Prime Minister unveiled a plan for economic recovery. It included a new ‘opportunity guarantee’ that will ensure every young person has the chance of an apprenticeship or a placement to “maintain the skills and confidence they need to find the job that is right for them.” While this is promising, it’s a government intervention that can’t be delivered by the government alone. The public and private sectors will need to work together to create opportunities for young people leaving education and to avoid creating a forgotten Generation 2020.

Aligning development to in-demand skills

We know from our work at The Opportunity Group that organisations typically want the same people with the same in-demand skill sets, leaving others underemployed or unemployed. COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated skills gaps but that doesn’t mean there is a lack of talent. Just that certain skills sets are in demand and that the ‘skills gap’ exists between those who were looking for jobs and the jobs that needed to be filled. In this Post pandemic world, the average number of applications per job is 250 with 5% of those applicants having the right skills and experience needed for the role (Glassdoor).

Some argue this is an education issue, which it certainly is in part, but the most in-demand skills like resilience, agile thought, creativity are not taught in Schools or Universities nor highly valued in our current education system. Post-pandemic, I hear again and again from employers that they’re looking for human skills rather than educational capability through grades. There is an opportunity now for businesses to organise programmes that are aligned to in-demand skills.

I believe that businesses can better prepare for the future by taking more responsibility for growing talent with the skills and capabilities that they need to fill their talent gaps. In the post-pandemic world, it’s not realistic to expect to receive young employees ‘ready-made’ straight from education. The vast diversity of skills in demand, newly emerging skills and soft skills are best developed in the workplace. Taking initiative to widen the opportunity landscape for Generation 2020 will pay dividends and now is the time to take the initiative.

Building brand equity

Both future hires and customers will remember how organisations acted during the COVID-19 crisis. Some brands, like Aldi, will be remembered for their positive step to make immediate payments to suppliers. Others will pay the price of doing the opposite. 92% of employees said they would consider leaving their current job if offered a role at a company with an excellent corporate reputation (corporate responsibility magazine). Young talent is so in tune with organisations’ values and legacy that a failure to act compassionately and ethically now will result in a vastly reduced talent pool in the future. Building employer brand equity by reaching out to young talent will create a lasting impact with potential hires and customers long beyond COVID-19.

By focussing on growth and longer term planning, companies can build their future talent pools and capability in a cost effective and low risk way now by accepting a small number of young people on a year long programme during which they can learn a valuable skill and work on projects.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary stated that “the cost of inaction now could potentially be more than the cost of action today

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